Who remembers this advert?
“Be successful!/Be important!/Use Macleans toothpaste!!!”
The person who wrote the ad copy, I think was Uncle Ted Mukoro of blessed memory. But this is not a copywriting masterclass.
I never considered the importance of a smile when it comes to one’s confidence. I’ve often smiled without an iota of confidence. I smile for many reasons, when I am embarrassed or when I am clueless, for instance.
I used to just smile for many different reasons…until I lost my front tooth.
Now, my incisors, the two front teeth, had been chipping off over the years. The more they chipped off, the more I covered them, while smiling, with my upper lip.
Someone advised me a few years ago to go to the dentist to have it fixed. I had no idea it could be fixed. Anyway, the dentist offered me two options, to “crown” which is a more permanent fixture or simply give me a composite, which she reminded me was just a temporary measure.
Now, we all know dental is expensive. Whether in Nigeria or abroad. Only last year, I forked out over N400,000k to have my son’s tooth extracted while he was schooling in South Africa. He was in too much pain for me to delay sending the money. Even though he had health insurance, it didn’t cover the dentals
Anyway, the option of a “crown” was immediately out of the window when the dentist told me what it would cost. N320, 000k. That was the monthly we sent to my son in school for his rent and upkeep. The other option, while not so expensive, was just a temporary measure, N40,000k…I jumped at the temp.
I got a composite and I could smile widely again without being self-conscious.
So there was this period I was meant to make a workshop presentation at First Bank. I had done the PowerPoint, rehearsed with my partner. I was good.
A day before the presentation, we had a meeting with a client inside Lekki mall. After our meeting we stopped at a security gadget shop to get a few items. In the shop, we saw a samurai sword. My partner picked up the sword to show me how he would swing it at any would be intruder…
He went on like, “Pj see, if I see any thief coming, I’ll just pull out my sword and…”
His elbow connected straight to my mouth. I felt the impact of his elbow knock my composite off!
My tooth was a broken!
Now I didn’t say this earlier, before the dentist fixed a composite, she chipped away at the cracked tooth to have enough to plaster a composite…
The hole was just there, like a window, without a curtain and I was naked! I ran my tongue over my teeth and it poked out of the gaping hole.
Shege! Iru wahala wo lele yi ntori Olorun!
He dropped the offending sword, whirled round to hug me, not fully knowing the damage he had done.
I wailed loudly, “My tooth, my tooth has come off…”
There was no blood of course but as he held my face to see the damage he’d done, the gaping hole made him sweat immediately, “Pj your tooth has come off…oh shit!”
“I know,” I wailed back. Not from pain, yes my upper jaw tingled but my pride was more hurt because it meant I wouldn’t be able to open my mouth in public.
I wouldn’t be able to smile, I wouldn’t be able to make my presentation without my client seeing the gaping hole …I mean it’s the upper front teeth for god’s sake!
I couldn’t get another composite done that day, it was already evening and dental offices were closed. The workshop presentation was the following morning!
I had never felt a loss of self-confidence as I felt that day.
I was morose the whole evening. Every time I looked in the mirror, hoping to see a complete set of front teeth, the hole mocked me!
My partner tried to console me, he kept reassuring me, “No one will notice, you look ok, don’t worry.”
I gave him a look of pure hate!
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine tomorrow. I can’t even see it…” he claimed.
“You can’t see the open window in my smile? Please don’t annoy me further!”
I knew it was an accident, but my presentation the following day suddenly became something I dreaded.
I got through the presentation hiding my “window” The client and participants seemed to have been wondering what happened to me. They didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell them.
After my workshop presentation, I went to get another composite done.
I could smile again.
I was confident, again, to open my mouth and laugh at any joke, funny or not. Months later, my partner and I were with my parents. I chewed on chicken and the composite came off, again…
This time the broken part fell out of my mouth and bounced off.
I turned to my partner, baring my “window”.
“Aww shit, Pj, your tooth is gone again. Did you swallow it?”
“It must have fallen off after that chicken…”
As soon as my parents went out to perform the Asr, late afternoon prayer, both of us dropped on all fours, looking under the seats, pulling out the throw pillows, searching my parent’s living room…for the broken part of my tooth.
My mother’s nanny came into the sitting room and asked us what we were looking for but we ignored her. She went on all fours, still asking, “aunty, ki len wa, na?” (Aunty, what are you looking for?)
At this time, I knew I had to find a more permanent solution to a tooth that just falls off at will and leaves me with a broken smile. But there are fees still being paid. Smiling doesn’t pay fees!
We found the errant broken part and my partner gummed it back for me; that bond will remain between us, I guess.
I have since realised how important one’s smile is to the person and those sharing in the radiance of the smile. It boosts confidence, boosts self- esteem. Every time I go out now, I carry a tube of Gorilla super glue with me, in case…